San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans was a hot name by the end of last season. He was leading a group that, after last October, was the best defense in football.
Ryans interviewed with the Minnesota Vikings for their head-coaching job last offseason but declined a second interview. He'll have plenty of more interviews coming up if the 49ers' defense keeps playing like it has so far this season.
Against a Los Angeles Rams offense led by well-respected head coach Sean McVay, the 49ers did everything right. They had seven sacks from five players. The defense didn't allow a touchdown, and scored one itself. It helps to have players like Nick Bosa and Fred Warner on your side, but Ryans had all the answers for McVay's offense on Monday night. It was a clinic by Ryans against a coaching star who won a Super Bowl eight months ago.
The 49ers beat the Rams 24-9 in a huge game for their season on Monday night. They move to 2-2, the same record as the Rams. The clinching play in the fourth quarter was a score by the 49ers' defense, fittingly enough. Matthew Stafford looked right and locked onto Cooper Kupp, his only reliable option. Niners safety Talanoa Hufanga jumped the route, picked off the pass and returned it 52 yards. The 49ers' defense reached the end zone, something the Rams' offense didn't do once Monday night.
The 49ers' defense will keep them in playoff contention all season. As long as Ryans is leading that unit, they can bank on more dominance to come.
49ers defense has another great performance
The 49ers had constant pressure on Stafford. There were smart stunts that got home and well-timed, selective blitzes. McVay told ESPN that there were too many mental errors in protection, but credit the 49ers for that. The Rams had issues because the 49ers mixed it up very well. The 49ers also never seemed to miss a tackle.
The 49ers turned the Rams into a one-dimensional offense. Nobody can cover Kupp. But Kupp was the only offense Los Angeles had. Everything else was cut off. And Kupp didn't get much other than a lot of short passes, which any defense will take. He finished with 122 yards on 14 catches. The 49ers can live with that. The Rams had just 257 yards total on Monday night.
The 49ers' offense is a work in progress, but it has Deebo Samuel, who broke the game's biggest play, a 57-yard touchdown in which he caught a short pass and ran through the Rams on his way to the end zone. Samuel had 115 yards receiving. The 49ers have playmakers on offense, led by Samuel, and it should get better as the season goes on.
The defense will be elite. The 49ers could call a game knowing the defense wasn't going to give up much. It looks like the best defense in football, and Ryans will start to become one of the hot names in the coaching world.
49ers, DeMeco Ryans pick up from last season
Last season the 49ers' defense carried the team to the NFC championship game and into the fourth quarter of that game the Rams were stuck on seven points. Over the 49ers' final 12 games last season including playoffs, they allowed more than 327 yards just twice. Once was in an overtime win over the eventual AFC champion Cincinnati Bengals. The 49ers were awesome on defense most of last season.
That led to Ryans getting some head-coaching buzz. The longtime Houston Texans and Philadelphia Eagles linebacker — he was the 2006 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year and a two-time Pro Bowler — took over the coordinator role when Robert Saleh left to become the New York Jets' head coach, and he was great in the job right away. He was still an active player in 2015 so he related well to players. He's just 38 years old, and the league is trending toward hiring younger coaches.
He'll be a great candidate next offseason, especially now that he has shown 2021 was no fluke. He'll be battling with some offensive-minded coaches for jobs, but he'll be a hot name. That assumes the 49ers keep playing defense like they have the first four games of the season. That shouldn't be a problem.